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17. 02. 2019
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IN ANCIENT India, large population was not a socio-economic problem. A couple without progeny was looked down with contempt, and it is common knowledge that earlier people scorned sterility. But more children were never considered an unmixed blessing. An incantation in the Rigveda had advanced the view: "A man with many children succumbs to miseries." This is perhaps the oldest statement with suggestion against a large family. To have one enlightened son is better than hundreds of illiterates. Like the solitary moon, the former strives and removes darkness which is not possible by hundred of stars. It is with this in view, Lopamudra wanted to have only one virtuous son in preference to hundreds of undesirable ones.

In ancient classics on religion, medicine and sexology, much emphasis was laid "upon the preservation of shukra or seminal fluid. Semen, when preserved in the body through the process of brahmacharya (celibacy) promotes strength, complexion, longevity and the power of resistance to disease and decay. Except for the sole purpose of procreation, sexual union was proscribed. Sexual act is a part of dharma or religious duty which is to be performed following the prescribed procedure.

For those who are unable to adopt these religious prescriptions and prohibitions, several natural including mechanical devices are described in Ayurvedic works and works on sexology.

Some (non-poisonous) local and oral contraceptives described in these books are elaborated below:

(a) In Yogaratnakara and Brihad-yoga-tarangini, the woman is asked to get her genital tract fumigated with the smoke of margosa wood by burning it. This is to be done after the stoppage of her menstrual flow. This is prescribed to prevent conception. In Tantrasara sangraha, this reference occurs in a slightly different way. The fumigation is suggested to be done during the period or ritu, the menstrual period or the period of fertilisation.

A very common technique which is even now practiced in certain parts of the globe for contraception is also described in Yogaratnakara, Brihad-yoga-tarangini and Brihannighantu ratnakara. A piece of rock salt smeared with sesame oil should be kept in the vaginal tract of the female before coitus to prevent conception. In Brihad-yoga-tarangini, there is another reference in this connection. After coitus, a tampon consisting of rock salt and oil should be inserted into the vaginal tract which will work as a contraceptive. Rasa-ratna-samu-chchaya has elucidated the mechanism of action of rock-salt in preventing conception. According to it, the shukra or sperm gets dissolved or broken into pieces by coming into contact with rock-salt smeared with oil. This will not stop menstruation but will only prevent conception, even during the time of fertility. By implication, this local contraceptive does not in any way affect the ovulation process of the woman but incapacitates sperm which otherwise would have got united with the ovum to cause pregnancy. According to Haramekhala, a piece of rock-salt smeared with oil and kept at the mouth of the uterus, garbhashaya vadana, i.e., cervix helps in preventing conception.

A paste prepared with the seeds of palasha (Butea monosperma), honey and ghee be kept inside the vagina in sufficient quantity. This is described in Brihad-yoga-tarangini to prevent conception. Another reading of the concerned verse is available in Bharata-bhaishajya- ratnakara, according to which a very fine paste is required to be made probably with a view to prevent any irritation in the female genital tract. According to Haramekhala, this medicine is to be applied in the vagina during the time of fertilisation. According to the commentators on Haramekhala, this medicine should be applied during the entire period of fertilisation and not only once with a view to prevent conception.

(b) Oral Contraceptives for Males: In ancient classics on sexology and medicine, oral drugs for producing sterility in males are also mentioned. One such reference is in Ratirahasya, according to which, if an individual takes the powder of haridra or rajani( Curcuma longa) impregnated with goat's urine, he becomes sterile. This recipe is said to produce its effect instantaneously even on young people. In Rasa- prakasha-sudhakara, one complete chapter, is devoted to the description of various formulae for bijabandha (prevention of the ejaculation of semen) during coitus.

(c) Oral Contraceptives for Females-, The following formulae are described to produce sterility in females :

(i) Old Sugar-Candy: In Tantra-sara-sangruha, old sugar-candy with milk is described to be used orally to prevent conception. In Bhavaprakasha, Balatantr, Kuchimaratantra, Yogaratnakara and Brihannighantu ratnakara, old sugar-candy is suggested to be taken. In Anangaranga and Panchasayaka, details of this type of recipe are given.

In Balatantra, there is yet another reference to sugar-candy being taken with rice-wash in the form of a linctus to produce sterility in the woman without affecting her sexual passion. This is a popularly used recipe in the villages.

(ii) Root of chitraka (Plumbage zeylanica): In Kuchimaratantra and Anangaranga, root of chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica) is described to be boiled with rice-wash, and after filteration, the decoction is to be taken consecutively for three days after the stoppage of the menstrual flow. This is stated to make the woman barren. In Panchasayaka, this decoction is said to make the woman barren forever.

(iii) Fruit of kadamba (Anthocephalus indicus): The fruit of kadamba (.Anthocehalus indicus) added with honey, one fourth in quantity, if taken for three days along with hot water, produces sterility in the woman. This is described in Anangaranga. According to Panchasayaka, however, the fruit of kadamba is to be taken with honey and rice-wash for three days after the stoppage of the menstrual flow.

(iv) Seed of Sarshapa (Brassica compestris): In Anangaranga, sarshapa (Brassica compestris) when taken for seven days during the period of fertilisation along with rice-wash as vehicle, causes sterility in the woman. In Panchasayaka, a very small quantity of sarshapa is stated to be taken and the rice- wash is stated to be prepared of white variety of rice only.

In Kuchimaratantra, rice grains and sugar are mentioned to be added to sarshapa. All these three in equal quantities should be mixed with rice-wash and taken by the woman to stop menstruation.

In Brihad-yoga-tarangini, sarshapa is mentioned to be taken after triturating with gingelly oil for three days during menstrual period. This will prevent conception.

(v) Seeds of palasha (Butea monosperma) : In Yogachintamani, a recipe for producing sterility is given. Seeds of palasha (Butea monosperma) are to be powdered and taken with water for three days during the time of fertilisation.

In Panchasayaka, fruit of kshirivriksha (Mimusops hexandra) and the flower of shalmali (Salmalia malbarica) are described to be added to seeds of palasha and then taken with alcohol for 15 days for producing sterility in the woman. Another version of this verse is also available, according to which ghee is to used in the place of alcohol and there is no mention of time-limit for the intake of this recipe.

In Garudapurana, seed of this tree is stated to be made into a paste by adding honey and then taken by the woman during her menstrual period. This will prevent both menstruation and conception in future. In Yogaratna-samuchchaya, there is no mention of the prevention of conception by the intake of this recipe. Only the stoppage of menstruation is described there as its effect.

(vi) Flower of japa (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): Flower of japa (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is described in Bhavaprakasha, Brihannighanta ratnakara, Balatantra and Yogaratnakara to produce sterility in the woman.

In Brihad-yoga-tarangini, there is an interesting observation in this connection. The recipe, if taken during the time of delivery of a child is stated to prevent future conception and, if at all there is conception, the foetus will not grow; by implication, there will be an abortion.

(vii) Root of Tranduliyaka (Amaranthus spinosus) : Administration of the root of tanduliyaka (Amaranthus spinosus), made into a paste by adding rice-wash, to a woman after her menstruation for three days will make her sterile. This is described in Yogaratnakara, Brihad-yogatarangini and Brihannighanta ratnakara.

(viii) Haridra (Curcuma longa): One piece of the rhizome of haridra (Curcuma longa) should be taken every day, for six days (three days during menses and three days thereafter). This is described in Kuchimaratantra to produce sterility in the woman but she will continue to have menses.

(ix) Trapusa (Cucumis sativus) Intake of the paste prepared of the leaves of shelu (cordia dichotoma) is described in Bhaishajya ratnavali to stop menstruation.

(x)Leaves of Patha (Cissampelos pareira) : After taking the purificatory bath after menstruation, if the woman takes the leaves of patha (Cissampelos pareira) she will not conceive.

(xi) Flower of shalmali (Salmalia malabarica)-. In Tantra sarasangraha, intake of the flower of shalmali (Salmalia malabarica) is stated to cause sterility.

(xii) Fruit of Bakula (Mimusops elengi) : Fruit of bakula (Mimusops elengi) made into a paste by grinding with alcohol, if taken during the period of menstruation, will stop menstruation in future.

(xiii) Maricha (Piper nigrum): In Yoga-ratna-samuchchaya, the paste of white variety of maricha (Piper nigrum) made with sugar water, if taken for three days during menstruation, is described to stop future menstruation.

(xiv) Leaves of Champaka (Michelia champaca): Leaves of Champaka (.Michelia champaca) are to be soaked in water overnight and made to a paste. If administered to the lady during the period of her menstruation, this will prevent conception. The period in years for which this contraceptive remains effective coincides with the number of leaves taken as per the method described above.

(xv) Leaf of Tala (Borassus flabellifer) : Powder of tala (Borassus flaberllifer) leaf mixed with red ochre, if taken with cold water on the fourth day of menstrual period, is described to cause sterility.

(xvi) Gunja (Abrus precatorius) : A very common and popularly used recipe for contraception is the white variety of gunja (Abrus precatorius). Different methods of administration of this drug are prevalent in different parts of the country. Some people use the entire seed and some others use only the cotyledons removing the epicarp after soaking it in water for one night.

Administration of one gunja (white variety) on the fourth fay of menstruation, two on the fifth day and three on the sixth day is stated to prevent conception for three years.

(xvii) Castor seeds (Ricinus communis): Administration of the pulp of one or two castor seeds during the menstrual period is stated to prevent fertilisation for one and two years respectively.

(xviii) Agnimantha (Clerodendrum phlomidis) : Administration of a decoction prepared with the root-bark of agnimantha ( Clerodendrum phlomidis) together with rice-wash is mentioned to cause sterility.

(xix) Flowers of jambu (Syzygium cumini): Flowers of jambu (Syzygium cumini) triturated with the urine of the cow are stated to cause sterility in the woman when taken during the time of menstruation.

(xx) Old ghee: Intake of three-year-old ghee for 15 days makes the woman sterile. Cow's ghee is commonly used for this purpose.

(xxi) Talisha (Abies webbiana): Leaf of talisha ( Abies webbiana) mixed with equal quantity of gairika (ochre) is described in Yogaratnakara and Brihad-yoga-tarangini to produce sterility in the woman.

(xxii) Badari (Zizyphus jujuba) : After menses, if a woman takes badari (Zizyphus jujuba) and lac boiled in gingelly oil, she would not conceive.

(xxiii) Pippalyadi churna: Pippali (Piper longum), vidanga (Embelia ribes) and tankana (borax), made to a powder in equal quantities and if taken with milk during the period of fertilisation, there will be no conception. This recipe is described in Bhavaprakasha, Yogaratnakara and Brihannighantu ratnakara.

(xxiv) Dhatryadi churna : In Bhaishajya-ratnavali, the powder of dhatri (Emblica officinalis), arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) and abhaya( Terminalia chebula) is described to stop menstruation if taken with water.

(xxv) Rasanjanadi Churna : A powder prepared of rasanjana (aqueous extract of Berberis aristata), haimavati (Acorus calamus) and haritaki (Terminalia chebula), if taken with cold water, is described to stop menstruation. Obviously there will be no conception.

(xxvi) Krishnajitakadi vati: In Kuchimaratantra, a recipe is mentioned to produce sterility and stop menstruation in the woman. This is made of kala jira (Carum carvi), kachura (Curucuma zedoaria), nagakeshara(Mesua ferrea), kalaunji (Nigella sativa) and katphala (Myrica nagi), taken in equal quantities. Powders of these ingredients are triturated by adding water, and then made into pills.

(xxvii) Chandanadi churna: Powders of sandalwood, mustard and sugar are to be taken in equal quantities. It should be mixed with rice-wash and administered to make the woman sterile.

(xxviii) Kutajadi churna: The woman who drinks in wine, the fruits of kutaja(Holarrhena antidysenterica), Kadamba(Anthocephalus indicus), balaka ( Valeriana wallichii) and chandana (Santalum album) becomes sterile.

Some of the above mentioned recipes are single drugs and some are compound preparations. Most of these preparations are of vegetable origin. In some compound preparations, minerals are also added. Some of these recipes are mentioned in the classics on medicines and sexology and some others do not find a mention there in but are extensively used by people out of experience accumulated since centuries. The choice of recipes for different types of individuals depends upon their age and physical constitution.


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